The short answer is they don’t!
This is because, unfortunately, minors have very few legal rights and deciding one’s own custody is never one of them; only the judge gets to decide custody. However, a child’s meaningful preference is one of nine “best interest” factors which the judge can consider in deciding physical custody.
When is a child old enough for their preference to be considered meaningful? Again, there is no specific age at which a “preference” is considered to be “meaningful”; it depends on the child’s level of maturity at the time the preference is expressed. A 14 year old’s preference to live with Mom because she “has no rules” is unlikely to be considered at all, while a 12 year old’s mature, reasoned preference will likely be given weight.
As one judge put it: “A relatively mature teenager’s reasoned preference is not so lightly disregarded.” Be careful, however, because a teenager’s preference is not reliable if it is “manipulated or unduly influenced by a parent.”
1/27/2022 05:46:15 pm
I never knew that judges are the ones who decide custody since they consider the best interests of the children. This is helpful because my brother will file for divorce next month since his wife is now living with another man. He is hoping to find an experienced family attorney on Monday who can speed up the divorce process and help him get full custody of his three sons.
4/2/2022 12:13:13 pm
Our divorce and family lawyers provide expert family law advice on divorce and complex financial, I’m so thankful for your helpful post!
4/2/2022 12:36:47 pm
When is a child old enough for their preference to be considered meaningful? Thank you for making this such an awesome post!
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Doug Perkins, at Hartig Rhodes LLC, has an active family law practice, including prenuptial agreements and adoptions, and cases involving divorce, property, child custody and support, and domestic violence.